My Sunday school class won’t be coloring any paper hearts for Valentine’s Day. I have my reasons, but I need to watch how I tell them.
A few days ago I had a children’s ministry director (from a church I don’t attend) ask me, “What will you have your class do for Valentine’s Day?”
I answered, “Nothing. I run a Sunday school class, not a Hallmark store.”
Okay, I didn’t really answer that way. Smart-aleck comments are unkind, and I prefer to be helpful rather than shaming. But in my heart I wanted to answer that way. I was so very tempted.
I wanted to say that although it’s possible I’ll fill some extra time with a valentine-related activity, just for fun or as a way to show kindness to someone, any such activity won’t be the highlight of the class. The Bible lesson, the prayer time, and even the game we play to learn our Bible verse are far more important than acknowledging Valentine’s Day. Ask about my plans for those things.
I wanted to say that while it might be possible to teach a solid Bible lesson with a Valentine’s Day theme (something about love, presumably), that approach doesn’t feel like the best one. It feels as if I’d be communicating that Valentine’s Day observance comes first and the gospel is just something to fit around it. Some teachers might be able to fashion a Valentine’s Day class and avoid that pitfall, but I don’t want to try. I’ve been teaching through Exodus and I want to keep that up. Exodus is better than valentines.
I wanted to say that my students won’t mind if I ignore Valentine’s Day, even if other classes are having parties or making special crafts. I’ll be teaching the Bible and leading prayer and telling about Jesus. I won’t claim this makes me better than other teachers, but I do know it doesn’t make my class any stuffier. When I teach well and show who Jesus truly is, no kid I’ve taught has ever found him boring.
I wanted to say that I plan to aim high. I plan to get kids excited about Jesus, not construction paper hearts. Expressions of love are good, but I suspect the cute expressions of Valentine’s Day, no matter how adorable, might draw our attention away from the ultimate expression of love found only in Christ.
Most of all, I wanted to say that far too often I do make the mistake of getting distracted and turning my attention away from Jesus. It’s oh-so easy to have something else top of mind when I teach. Most weeks I fail my students. Most weeks something lesser takes over. The last thing I need is valentines. It’s hard enough to stay focused on Jesus as it is.
But I didn’t say any of that.
Instead I said something about not having thought of Valentine’s Day yet, which was true enough, and I let the matter drop. I opted for tact and respect. It was probably a smart move.
It was also necessary because of my judgmental spirit. I’m quick to hear a comment that sounds wrong, and immediately conclude that I know better than the other person. Maybe I’m right about Valentine’s Day. But if I am, my first thought needs to be about the many distractions and selfish, hidden goals in my own teaching that I put ahead of Jesus—not the priorities some other teacher may get wrong. Only later might I talk about the issue with friends or post my thoughts here, having taken the time to be helpful and not just critical.
I may not be guilty of turning my classroom into a Hallmark store, but I’ve often turned it into a self-pride factory or a monument to Jack the Wise Teacher. That’s my misplaced priority.
Still, I thought my Hallmark store line was clever and it did make some important points I really wanted to say. Now I guess I’ve said them.
Thoughts? Please share or comment below. I love feedback and discussion—it’s how we learn from each other! (Pick any name you like, and no one but me will see your email address—and I won’t use it, I promise)